Experimental atmospherics: a multi-sensory perspective
Purpose: Atmospherics is undoubtedly a multi-sensory concept, despite mostly being studied on a sense-by-sense basis by architects, sensory marketers and urban designers alike. That is, our experience is nearly always the result of cross-modal/multi-sensory interactions between what we see, hear, smell and feel in a given space. As such, it is critical that researchers study the senses in concert. That said, the few empirical studies that have attempted to assess the impact of deliberately combining the senses in a retail/health-care environment have typically failed to deliver the multi-sensory boost to experience (or sales) that the multi-sensory science predicts ought to be observed. Invoking notions of processing fluency, sensory overload and sensory (in-) congruency in the field of multi-sensory atmospherics may help to explain what happened (or went wrong) in such cases. Design/methodology/approach: Critical review of literature on atmospherics and sensory marketing, highlighting various difficulties of interpretation and challenges to accepted conclusions. Findings: Atmospherics is a fundamentally multi-sensory concept, and cross-modal interactions are the rule, not the exception. As such, researchers need to study atmospherics in a multi-sensory context. Originality/value: This critical commentary highlights the need for researchers to consider atmospherics from a multi-sensory, rather than sense-by-sense perspective.